In 1944, a Swiss engineer, and designer, named Hans Hilfiker designed the Swiss railway clock for use by the Swiss Federal Railways, a railway network of 3,134 km (1,947 miles), as a station clock. Since 1953, with the introduction of the distinctive red second hand – nicknamed Red Signal, designed in the shape of the baton used by train dispatch staff – the clock has become a Swiss national icon.
Around the same time, in 1951, a tailor from Zurich, Erwin Bernheim – along with his Brazilian friend, Egon Frank, founded the Mondaine Watch Company. The start-up plan was simple, they bought watches from small watch manufacturers and carried out rigorous functional checks before passing them off – then delivered them to emigrants, they had ties with, that had left Switzerland after WW2 to migrate elsewhere. As business grew, Mondaine purchased the Neuchatel Watch Company and used it as a production base to manufacture watches, in-house.
It wasn’t until 1986 that things really took off though. Bernheim had become ill and his sons, André and Ronnie, took over the management of company. Thinking of a way to boost sales, Mondaine created a miniaturized version of the Swiss station clock, licensed by the Federal Swiss Railways, and applied it to their watches. A star was born, and their signature look was created, as well.
Since then, Mondaine has had a solid sustainable track while remaining mindful of the environment. In fact, in 2020, the company declared itself 100% carbon neutral, meaning, they calculate their carbon emissions and compensate for what they have produced via carbon offsetting projects. A move towards Mondaine claiming the title of ‘The World’s #1 Environmentally Friendly Watch Brand’. By moving carbon neutral, the brand has commissioned its own photovoltaic solar plant on the roof of their state-of-the-art factory, in Biberist, Switzerland, switching production to solar power. Mondaine is referring to all parts too – the factory, headquarters, components, packaging, operating instructions, the transport of goods, company cars. Called the life cycle assessment, also known as Scope 1, 2 and 3 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which supplies the world’s most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standards. Mondaine is the first, in the watch industry, to consider all three scopes in the life cycle assessment.
The brand took its initial steps towards eco-friendly, in 1973, with the world’s first analog solar watch developed. In 1993, they melted down scrap metal and used it to make new watch cases. The 90s saw the brand launch the ‘100% post-consumer recycling’ watch they made from 100% recycled material. Today, further along – they use a few grams of gold and no diamonds, to avoid problems, with diamonds, because of their origin, procurement and working conditions, in general. Also, Mondaine packaging is no longer the usual box made of cardboard and plastic, but a case made of recycled PET, a remarkably energy-efficient packaging material which can be recycled.
In addition, Mondaine launched, in 2016, the SBB Essence line of watches, developed “using eco-friendly sources, its renewable materials including Rizinus (castor oil) for its case, (41% of the materials used in the casing are derived from castor oil and 30% from glass powder to provide additional strength); natural rubber for the strap and recycled PET bottles for its multi-purpose pouch, making these modern creations not only clean and simple in design but considerate to the world we live in”, claims their product department. The Essence straps are made from a high-quality woven wool textile and have a natural cork lining, a 100% natural plant tissue. Staying true to the brand, the Essence features the classic Official Swiss Railways Clock dial.
Additionally, Mondaine launched a collaborative project, called the WE CARE strategy, with the non-profit organization ‘Fairventures’, a global leader in the large-scale reforestation of degraded land. The funds raised provide targeted support and financial assistance within a deforested area to be replanted, in Indonesia. Watches from the WE CARE feature a white or black casing from the Essence Collection. For each watch sold, $20 USD will go directly to the cause. With this carbon offsetting project, Mondaine offsets any remaining carbon emissions, with this project, to finish the year – carbon neutral.
The Mondaine brand is an excellent choice for those looking to buy a watch. The combination of Swiss style and practicality make Mondaine watches some of the best in the business, and they all share one thing in common: environmental friendliness.